The Whitechapel Girl

The story that inspired a childbirth pioneer – and HypnoBirthing

Image re-created by Birth Undisturbed

Dr Grantly Dick Read

Dr Grantly Dick Read was an English obstetrician, childbirth pioneer and advocate for women in the mid 1900s. As a young Dr he attended the birth of ‘The Whitechapel Girl’ in a slum in London in 1911. At this time it was increasingly thought that birth should be medically managed. Dr Read was amazed by this girl and what he witnessed as she gave birth to her baby that night.

She refused pain relief

When he offered her chloroform, which was the norm for many births at this time, she refused and said she didn’t need it. This girl, living in complete poverty with little knowledge of birth, was able to use her natural instincts for a very calm and straightforward birth. He was intrigued as to how she could give birth with little discomfort.

The Fear Tension Pain Theory

This young woman inspired Dr Read when she said her famous line “It didn’t hurt Dr. Was it supposed to?” He then started to see a trend in groups of women. What was it that the women living the simplest of lives had that the other more affluent women did not? He realised that it was actually what they didn’t have that helped them. Fear. They didn’t have an expectation that their birth would be unmanageable. Dr Read seen that those who did not have fear birthed more easily. Those who did have fear had to start their preparation and relaxation early. HypnoBirthing is based on his theory and his life’s work. Thank you Dr Dick Read. For showing us how different birth can be.

We must trust our bodies

The history of childbirth is really incredible. When we look back it is easy to see how we have lost our way. Birth – a process that is safe and healthy for the majority of women, became heavily over medicalised. The birthing body is incredible. When we learn about what is really normal in birth, trust our bodies, and really prepare in the best possible way, it is amazing what we can achieve.

Nicola WIlson HypnoBirthing

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